LIMA — The Jefferson Awards marked their 20th anniversary in Lima by recognizing the key fundraiser for a pair of handicapped-accessible playgrounds as the region’s national representative.
Gregory Bukowski was announced as the Lima region’s representative for the national Jefferson Awards for Public Service during a streaming event Thursday night.
“I’ve been blessed in my life, and I think I need to give back a little,” Bukowski said, reflecting on his volunteerism.
Bukowski helped the Kiwanis Club of Lima raise the money for the All Abilities Playgrounds, one at Camp Robin Rogers near Spencerville that opened last year and another to be built at the Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities.
Bukowski, the retired treasurer at Apollo Career Center, helped make donation boxes left at area businesses, dropping them off and picking up the money occasionally. He spearheaded chicken barbecue dinners. He picked up the candy for a candy sale, going to 25 local businesses that sold it as a fundraiser. He also raised money by selling advertising on placemats at an area restaurant.
Bukowski also received a $700 check from Alberta Lee to donate to the non-profit organization of his choice. The national celebration will also go virtual this year in June.
In all, 12 winners were recognized during Thursday’s event, including four youth winners: Dominic Adkins, Bukowski, Mark Bishop, Michaela Cosart, Emmanuel Curtis, Braydon DeWitt, Lori Griffiths, Donna Grimm, Ken Hall, Reed Malcolm, Mike Mullen, and Jerome O’Neal. Each received a donation to the charity of his or her choice. Lima Mayor David Berger received an honorary Jefferson Award on Wednesday.
Thursday’s event was prerecorded with each winner individually and then combined into one presentation by Modo Media. Catered dinners were delivered to each winner to help them enjoy a banquet-like experience.
“As we celebrate tonight, we are reminded that the ultimate winners are those whose lives have been touched by these individuals’ selfless acts of kindness and compassion,” said Derek Stemen, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Lima.
All of the award winners showed humility along the way.
“I was honored, really,” said Reed Malcolm, a Shawnee High School senior recognized for his work as a youth mentor. “I looked at some of the past winners … and I thought, ‘Wow, this is very prestigious. I’m surprised I was even nominated.’”
Ken Hall, who oversaw Safety City’s overhaul and volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, remained stunned about being one of the area’s 12 winners this year.
“When I got the call about the award, I said to my wife, ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’” Hall said. “There are a lot more people out there probably more deserving than I am. I’m very appreciative but astounded.”
Michaela Cosart, who won a youth award for her work with 4-H and the Allen County Fair, was humbled by the Jefferson Awards experience.
“It’s so surreal,” she said. “Of all the people who applied, to even be one of those selected is amazing. It’s such a cool experience, and I’m very grateful for it.”
The whole event reminded viewers of the importance of giving back, Stemen said.
“The Jefferson Award’s purpose is to honor individuals for their commitment to improving the lives of others while also inspiring and encouraging others to get involved in their local communities,” he said. “If you ever doubt there is kindness and goodness in the world, tonight you will see the best of humanity.”
The hosts for Thursday’s virtual event were Holly Geaman of Your Hometown Stations and David Trinko of The Lima News.